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Behind The Desk 109: I Am An Arena Boy
October 18, 2013 | 2:30PM

Brandon Wetherbee is the host of the talk show/podcast You, Me, Them, Everybody. YMTE will be part of the Hell Yes Fest on Saturday, November 17 at The New Movement in New Orleans. Trent Reznor used to live in New Orleans. More on that later.

I’m going to see a band I haven’t seen since I was 17. In an arena. And I won’t be wearing Jncos.

The arena show turns me into a boy. Anything in an arena instantly makes me feel small and excited. Concerts, hockey games, pageants (I’m assuming pageants would though I have never been to a pageant nor can think of one pageant popular enough to warrant the use of an arena, I’m still pretty certain I’d be impressed.), the circus, whatever. Since my first arena show (the circus) to my most recent (Foo Fighters on 11/11/11 at Verizon Center thanks to a kind person that read this column), I turn into a boy. My level of excitement is unjustified and can barely be contained.

I don’t remember how old I was when I saw the Ringling Bros-Barnum & Bailey circus at the Rosemont Horizon. I do know I was very young, between 4 and 7, did not get scared by the clowns (clowns aren’t scary, they’re nice people that wield hatchets and like to do drugs in a field, whatever) and enjoyed a sundae. I remember violently throwing up that sundae when I got home. It was a blast. I got a program. I had that program for years.

The next arena experience was a Chicago Bulls basketball game. It was December 1992, the first half of their second consecutive championship season. The Chicago Stadium still allowed smoking. My mom and I sat in the top row of the highest level of the arena. I could kind of see the players for the first quarter. By the fourth quarter, a thick layer of smoke had developed, ensuring no one at the top level could see Michael Jordan or anyone on the court. Didn’t matter. I had a great time. I wore my Chicago Bulls wristbands. I kept that ticket for years.

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Michael Jordan participating in the Slam Dunk competition at the Chicago Stadium. Note the giant ad for Winston cigarettes. Cigarettes go well with Gatorade and Coca-Cola.

Following basketball was a trip back to the Chicago Stadium to see the Blackhawks face-off against the then newly formed San Jose Sharks. My best-friends dad took me and his family to the sold-out event. Once again, I had a great time. Still too small to see most of the action, my sober 11-year-old self couldn’t contain my excitement of seeing drunk people watch future drunk athletes. I also kept that ticket for years.

The arena foundation was strong before I saw my first ‘real’ arena concert: Q101′s 1997 Twisted Christmas featuring The Cure, 311, Chumbawumba (replacing Bjork), Everclear, Sugar Ray and more. Because I went to the nice school with the rich kids I sat in a box. A fucking box. I was 15. 15-year-olds do not need or deserve to sit in a box to watch dudes with bleached blond tips sing about last night’s halo hanging from the corner of their four-post bed. Amazing show. Amazing show from the eyes of a 15-year-old in a box. In reality it was a sub-par radio station promotional show with 20-minute sets of now laughable acts, but whatever. Bought an Everclear shirt and had it for years. The shirt ended up being destroyed with my 1988 88 Oldsmobile because it was in the truck, dirty and smelly, after a tour. When the car was demolished in 2007, I had that shirt for 10 years.

Sidenote: This may be my biggest regret as a teenager, buying an Everclear shirt. If I could change one thing, it would be this. Parents and older siblings: don’t let your child/brother/sister buy an Everclear shirt.

The last arena show I attended with baited breath was the 2000 Nine Inch Nails Fragile tour in the spring of 2000 at the UIC Pavilion. My high school girlfriend and I bought tickets four months prior to the show on the day they went on sale at a suburban Dominicks. We were third in line. When the second person in line didn’t want floor tickets and held up the line for 10 extra minutes I lost my shit. We ended up with seats near the top of the arena. My anger, though justified, helped no one.

The day of the show was everything suburban, urban, tourist and local you could ask for. We drove a whole 10-minutes on the highway before getting to the arena. It was 2pm. We had nothing to do. We went to a tourist trap beef sandwich restaurant. Once that was over it was 3pm. We still had nothing to do. We ended up driving back to the suburbs and took the train back into the city. Though both of us frequently took Chicago public transportation and knew exactly where we were going, we acted as if our excitement could make the show happen faster. We still arrived early.

The show was good. I was too excited/happy/second-hand-high to correctly assess the situation. I bought a shirt at the show, the one that had lyrics from “Somewhat Damaged” on the back, including the very-awesome-to-a-17-year-old lyric “Where the fuck were you?” That shirt was thrown away by my mother when I was not at home. This is how all NIN shirts should be disposed, by upset parents.

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My mom also threw away my Nirvana “Incesticide” shirt and that’s some bullshit because there aren’t any swear words on that one.

The talk show has shown me how the sausage is made. I’ve played theaters, large theaters. I’ve played dive bars, horrible, horrible dive bars. I’ve played community centers and church basements. I’ve played black box theaters and rock clubs. I’ve been backstage at amphitheaters and large-scale festivals. The arena is my last unspoiled space. I know it’s not the best place to see a show or play a show or listen to a show. Doesn’t matter. It’s the one venue that I’ll probably never play (fine by me) and the one venue that is able to sell me $10 ice cream sundaes and bring me back to my vomiting childhood.

I’m going to Nine Inch Nails at the Verizon Center with my wife. I never, ever thought I’d write that sentence. I’m extremely happy that I have. Even with a partner, great job and fulfilling talk show, seeing NIN’s angry anthems against all things authoritarian in an arena has me fidgeting like excited boy in the midst of puberty.

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